I have a friend who’s about the same age as me (for sake of argument, let’s call him Dos Cubos) but has easily smoked 4 to 5 times more cigars I have in my lifetime. His knowledge in the industry is vast and if you have questions about a cigar, he has smoked it. With this in mind, I find that Mr. Cubos really enjoys cigars that I hate and vice versa. A brand that Mr. Cubos particularly enjoys is Gran Habano, a company out of Honduras who has produced numerous top-sellers for us in the retail division.
About two years ago, I was fairly unfamiliar with the vast selection that Gran Habano had to offer. But I unwillingly took Mr. Cubos' advice and tried the brand. What I noticed is the more I smoked Gran Habano’s, the greater my appreciation grew for the product. My admiration of the Gran Habano line grew fonder when a young man stopped by the CI Super-Store on a hot summer day, talked to me for about half an hour, purchased a couple cigars, then proceeded to buy me lunch from the local pizzeria. Before he left the store that day, he introduced himself and said, “I’m George Rico of Gran Habano Cigars.”
Since then, I’ve been overzealous in regards to Gran Habano’s new releases, including the new Gran Habano Azteca Double Maduro Jaguar. This tasty Honduran-made cigar is a densely packed 6”X54 vitola, similar to a standard Toro size. The blend itself features a beautiful dark San Andres maduro (Mexico) wrapper AND binder. This maduro wrapper looks different though…most maduros I see these days look jet black, almost as if there’s someone in the factory taking each puro and coloring them black with a Sharpie. This San Andres wrapper has a nice tint of brown with a slightly bumpy texture. Oddly enough, I look for this kind of color variation in my maduros.
The cigar itself is a “double maduro” which literally means it has a Maduro wrapper and binder. Typically, double Maduros that I have smoked in the past have been relatively medium or medium-full in body with a distinct pepperiness. The blend of fillers in the Gran Habano Azteca consists of Habano-seed Nicaraguan long fillers and a percentage of Panamanian tobacco as well. This unique combination of tobaccos is another reason why I have enjoyed Gran Habano over the last few years; they have been consistently creative with their blending.
So I’m literally on the balcony of my apartment complex with my laptop and a glass of Flor de Cana 18 Year rum and Azteca in hand. Pre-light, the cigar doesn’t have an overpowering barnyard smell but it’s light in the hand and very enticing. I can’t really say that the band is an overly attractive work of art but it’s certainly distinct. Regardless, it’s a comfortably warm night with a slight breeze and I’m ready to go.
Upon lighting the cigar, I expect big notes of pepper and leather, more traditional of a double maduro. However, I get a very light smoke with a unique sweetness. Heavy plumes of smoke are easily drawn from this 6”X54 vitola and the smoky, sweet rum is complimenting the cigar quite well.
After the first inch of the cigar I notice an interesting citrusy note to the blend which I RARELY pick up in cigars. The construction on this thing is real solid, producing a generous white ash that just doesn’t want to fall.
Through the middle third of the Azteca the flavor remains fairly consistent, which is fine by me. Normally I enjoy highly complex cigars but since the flavor is so unique I’m taking pleasure in the unswerving flavor, draw and burn. This sounds really gaudy but I’m almost getting a chewy, graham cracker taste on the back of the palate.
Upon the finish, a faint maple syrup aroma fills the air and my glass that once contained a copious amount of rum is empty. I must say this was a highly enjoyable smoking experience. The Azteca clearly separates itself from the other well-liked Gran Habano blends.
The most notable aspect of the cigar I must mention is the lack of pepper that was detected through the nose. This was a rather smooth yet palatable cigar which will have me going back to it.
Expert thought for the day: “Cigars can’t go STALE! The term ‘stale’ refers to a decayed, sour, musty entity. ‘Stale’ also implies expiration. When placed in a proper environment, cigars will last for eons!”